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In the Talmud’s Timeless Laws, a Vast Temple of the Mind

Long after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed, Talmudic rabbis kept it alive in their imaginations, and ours

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How the Talmud Maps Behavior by Exploring Definitions, Not Listing Rules

Daf Yomi: The rabbis examined practical dimensions of deep questions, including those raised around saliva, urine, and sex

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Why the Talmud Draws Imaginary Lines All Around Us—and Over Our Heads

Daf Yomi: Our literary critic ambles over rooftops, ruins, and ships, in search of meaning in Jewish commentary

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The Talmud Paints a Vivid Picture of Jewish Family Life in This Week’s Daf Yomi

Daf Yomi: Our literary critic discovers more rules on male authority, Shabbat meals, and how the rabbis thought about wealth

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You Only Live Once

The Talmudic rabbis saw the world as a wedding—a place of charity and pleasures to be enjoyed while it lasts

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The Talmud’s Absolute Value

Through reasoning, the rabbis brought all of natural creation under the rule of law

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When Messiah Is an Afterthought

The Talmud’s pragmatism and wonder meet in a technical problem about the height of a boundary line

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Crossing the Line

By avoiding authoritative rulings in favor of nuanced debate with the ideas of the past, the Oral Law refuses to simplify

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Are Truffles Food?

As our Talmud column returns, debates over Oral Law range from the existential to the mundane

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Navigating the Talmud’s Alleys

The range of problems and the variety of answers in the study of Oral Law lead to new pathways of reasoning

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Written in the Stars (Or Not)

To overcome fated lives, the Talmud’s rabbis argued, perform virtuous acts according to Torah

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Leave the Jewish People Alone

Rabbis left enforcement of their Talmudic decrees to communal standards and voluntary commitment

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Ancient Laws for Modern Times

When is a tent just a tent and not like a bed or a hat? To update Jewish laws, the rabbis reasoned by analogy.

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Birth Right

You wouldn’t expect that the tractate on Shabbat would be the place to discuss circumcision. You’d be wrong.

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Can’t Touch This

Talmudic rabbis debate the reach of permissions and prohibitions, and Jews are rewarded for virtuous behavior

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Things Broken and Repaired

In this week’s page of Talmud, the rabbis show their skill at making distinctions between obligation and acting out

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The Pretenders

In order to understand Sabbath rules, the rabbis show, one must imagine exactly what work the Israelites did

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Intention Versus Action

This week, the rabbis ask if two half-sins equal a whole one. In what part of a sin is sinfulness located?

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Why the Sabbath Is Everything

This week, the Talmud’s rabbis explore possible holy day violations to determine the nature of the sinner

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Does God Care About Shoes?

In this week’s Talmud study, Jewishness is not just moral and theological matters. It is a way of life.

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The Badness of Good Stories

This week, Talmudic rabbis seek righteousness in the Bible’s tales of vice, weakness, and human frailty

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The Power of Positive Thinking

This week, deduction and analogy propel the Talmud from the mundane to the miraculous

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Eggs and Babies

This week’s Talmud study reveals legal debates that refine the limits and nature of inherently abstract concepts

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First-Century Technology

When new inventions made widespread sinning the norm, ancient rabbis adapted. The Talmud’s God approved.

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Standing on One Foot

The origin of a famous anecdote shines light on the compromises of Conservative and Reform Judaism

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Light Advice From the Rabbis

A Talmudic discussion of Hanukkah and Sabbath candles leads to a lesson in the sacred and profane

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Of Lice and Men

Study of the Talmud’s second tractate reveals how the rabbis stuck to logic and made it sacred

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The Rabbis’ Mental World

The last chapter of the first tractate brings modern readers back to sex, bowel movements, and thunder

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Talmudic Pride and Prejudice

This week’s Daf Yomi considers—with Chaucerian verve—whether a rabbinic elite spoke for the Jewish people

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The Right Way to Pray

One Talmudic rabbi’s prayers work, while others’ fall on deaf ears. Is humility more pleasing to God than pomp?